Support during COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Here you will find updates and information on general qualifications for teachers, parents and students in international schools.

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Our priority, as with any exam series, is to make sure that every student receives a grade or award that reflects their knowledge and understanding of the subject they have studied. This year is no different; ensuring that students receive a grade or award that is accurate and fair so that they can make progress.

Update 19 March 2021

We have previously confirmed that we will use a robust approach based on teacher assessment for International GCSE and International AS/A Level assessment in May/June 2021 and exams will not go ahead as planned. 

To ensure fairness for all students around the world, we want to ensure parity with our UK qualifications and so will align the evidence-based approach for international qualifications with the approach for UK qualifications, as far as it is sensible to do so. 

We also recognise that there are a range of circumstances faced by international schools and we are committed to providing assessment materials, services, support and guidance to ensure that you can proceed with confidence. 

Student grades will be derived by teachers and centres with support throughout from Pearson. With our support it will be possible to use a variety of evidence to inform the grade which will be submitted to Pearson.

We want to ensure that you have access to assessment materials that will enable objective and fair judgements to be made about student performance; we have also heard from you that you want us to support you in translating evidence-based judgements into grades.

The approach for this series will be underpinned by a quality assurance process that focuses on helping you to make judgements, based on evidence, that are objective and consistent. There will be several different stages, and we will provide more detail in the next edition of this bulletin, but we are committed to ensuring that it is supportive and not overly burdensome.

Support and guidance

We promise to now work with you to make sure students receive grades to progress to the next stage of their education. We'll provide detailed guidance and support to ensure this happens. This will include how to reach grading decisions, the creation of assessment materials, the quality assurance process and appeals, along with the general support around timelines and submission systems. We will also be providing support for teachers through our Professional Development Academy where teachers will be able to sign up and access a range of resources.

Find out more

In order to assist centres we have created a comprehensive guidance on the process for deriving grades this summer. This document provides an overview of the approach together with detail on each of the specific aspects – including quality assurance, grading and appeals. It is important that you take time work through the document and in the coming weeks we will do all that we can to support you in your understanding of it.

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Update (30 April 2021)

As we’ve previously communicated, the optional use of unseen assessments is one of the forms of evidence that Pearson is making available. The materials must be kept securely, until the specified date on the unseen assessment schedule.

The unseen assessment window has started and is open until 14 May 2021. Assessments must be in line with the approach that's outlined in your centre policy and used according to the schedule that's available on our Timetables page.

The unseen materials can be used in two ways:

  1. As unseen materials presented to students in a controlled situation for them to respond to, within this specified timeframe. Students must use the hardcopy materials in the format sent to centres to be eligible for the marking service. If you need to access the digital soft copies on the secure day, these must be printed and used unmodified in the same way as the hardcopy materials, in a controlled situation and not sent directly to students.
  2. After this specified timeframe, in the knowledge that they may be familiar to students, used as one part of the evidence that supports the teacher grade. If you're planning on using or adapting the assessments, either hard copy or digital soft copy, this can only be done after the scheduled day the assessment is due to be sat.

What if a candidate cannot sit the assessment?
If a candidate cannot sit the assessment, then please mark them as absent if you are returning the scripts to us for the marking service.

When will mark schemes be available?
Mark schemes will be available from 17 May 2021. Our principal examiners may refine the mark schemes, and final published mark schemes will be released on 4 June. It is acceptable to use the mark schemes released on 17 May to mark assessments.

What if we didn’t receive enough hardcopy papers?
For all entries made after 21 March, you'll need to print the required number of copies from the electronic files available on Secure Download Service (SDS).

Can we send digital copies to candidates on the scheduled date that the assessment is due to be sat?
No. As per page 37 of the Pearson International Guidance document:
‘After a paper’s designated day in the ‘Unseen Assessment Schedule’ has passed, these materials may then be used in a variety of ways, at any point after they are released. For example, they could be set as a test, including remotely if required, or as a class or homework activity.’

If your region has recently gone into a lockdown, then please get in touch with your regional Pearson colleague for any questions, or you can also contact us centrally via our contact form, or by calling the relevant team for your role.

We understand that exams remain important to you and your students, therefore we intend to run an additional focused exam series for International GCSE later in the year.

We have recently consulted with you to help us understand your needs and priorities in relation to additional exam opportunities in 2021.

We are now evaluating the feedback which will be used to support decisions regarding: 

  • preferred timeframe for an additional series for Pearson Edexcel International GCSE 

  • preferences on any subjects to add to the regular Pearson Edexcel International AS/A level October exam series (international schools/centres only).

On 3 February 2021 we confirmed that the International AS/A Level October exam series will go ahead as planned. 

We understand that exams remain important to you and your students.

We have recently consulted with customers to help us understand your needs and priorities in relation to additional exam opportunities in 2021.

We are now evaluating the feedback which will be used to support decisions regarding: 

  • preferred timeframe for an additional series for Pearson Edexcel International GCSE

  • preferences on any subjects to add to the regular Pearson Edexcel International AS/A level October exam series (international schools/centres only).

iPrimary and iLowerSecondary (iPLS) scheduled assessment options will be available in May/June 2021 as planned where local government public health guidance permits. We also intend to run the iPLS October 2021 series as normal.

iPrimary and iLowerSecondary provide excellent preparation for International GCSE but are not a required formal progression gateway. They have been, and will continue to be, optional assessments.

Any centres with further questions should contact their regional representative.

We have issued guidance for centres accepting private candidate entries for international qualifications. It provides an overview of the May/June 2021 assessment process for centres accepting entries for private candidates taking International GCSEs, International AS or International A Levels.

To make sure that private candidates have sufficient time to make entries for international qualifications, we will be waiving late fees for private candidates up to 26 April.

Download a guide for centres accepting private candidate entries below or visit our private candidates page.

Private candidates

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We recognise that students around the world are facing different circumstances and many of you will be disappointed that exams are not taking place in May/June 2021.

Our priority is to ensure your safety and well-being, and that you fairly receive a grade that reflects your knowledge and understanding. We know that you will have some questions, which we’ve tried to answer here:

I want to sit exams this summer. Why are you not making them available?

Our priorities throughout this pandemic have been to keep everyone safe and well, and to ensure fairness, so that every student receives a grade that reflects their knowledge and understanding of the subject they have studied.

With the ongoing global uncertainty and the changing nature of the pandemic on almost a daily basis, we have concluded that it’s not possible to achieve these priorities. We understand that this decision will be frustrating for some students and parents and that others will welcome it.

While making this decision, we spoke to many schools, teachers and students and we carefully considered a range of scenarios. This included having exams in some countries and teacher assessment in others. However, given the ongoing uncertainty, we feel that this could not be done fairly and would likely risk unintentionally disadvantaging individual students.

What are my options if I want to sit exams?

We also intend to make available an additional focused exam series for International GCSE later in the year. We will be consulting with schools separately on this. Our October exam series for International AS/A Level will go ahead, as usual. This will enable students who prefer to take exams to have the opportunity to do so.

Where can I find out more and get support on wellbeing?

Feeling a certain amount of concern or worry is natural when we encounter difficult or unsettling times. We would like to support wherever we can, from mindfulness practice to safeguarding, and are providing a range of resources suitable for teachers, parents and young people. If you are feeling anxious or upset, please remember to always talk to someone. If you are a student, talking to your family/parent/guardian or your close friends can help.

We want to ensure parity with our UK qualifications and so will align the approach for NEA on international qualifications with the approach for UK qualifications.

Ofqual have confirmed, following the publication of their decisions on assessment arrangements for May/June 2021, that candidates should continue to be given the opportunity to complete non-exam assessment (NEA) for GCSE, AS and A Level qualifications. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has released guidance for centres on how to complete and authenticate non-exam assessment remotely, where it's safe and possible to do so.

Ofqual have also confirmed that NEA will not be assessed by the exam boards. The evidence from NEA will be used by teachers to inform their Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG). We know that teachers may be concerned about how to assess incomplete NEA evidence when a candidate has been unable to finish their work through no fault of their own. The exam boards are working together to provide additional guidance to help centres in these circumstances.

Below is the initial timeline of some of the key activities that we're working towards. We'll update this as more key dates become available.

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On 25 February, the Department for Education and Ofqual confirmed that results will be issued to students in early August.

  • AS/A Level and International AS/A Level results will be issued to students on Tuesday 10 August 2021
  • GCSE and International GCSE results will be issued to students on Thursday 12 August 2021.

As usual, exam boards will release results to centres on the preceding day.  

We want to reassure all students and parents that we are actively engaging with global universities and admissions bodies about the approach to teacher assessed grades this year. We will continue to do this throughout the process.

We know that universities and qualification evaluators remain committed to upholding transparency and fairness to all students from every curriculum around the world in these uncertain times. They will provide feedback on how they will evaluate teacher assessed grades once we have finalised our process.

Universities are aware that students need reassurance that they will not be disadvantaged in their applications for admission and advance standing/credit.

Although it is very early in the process, some universities have already confirmed that they will welcome students with teacher assessed grades and that they will hold the same value as exam-derived results.

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Further information and guidance
 

BTEC information and guidance for international centres

LCCI information and guidance for international centres

PTE Academic information and guidance for international centres

You can submit questions using our contact form. If you need to talk to us about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the effect on your centre and learners, Exam Officers can call us on +44 (0) 120 4770 696.